William Dillon Otter is often regarded as Canada's first true professional soldier. He was born in 1843 near Goderich Ontario. While working as a clerk in the 1860s Otter joined the militia with the Queen's Own Rifles and fell in love with the military way of life.
In 1866 he participated in the defence of Canada against Fenian raids at the Battle of Ridgeway. By 1883 he was able to secure appointment in the tiny permanent army by becoming commander of the infantry school at Toronto. With the outbreak of the 1885 Resistance, Otter was despatched to the Northwest Territories to assist General Frederick Middleton in the advance on the Métis stronghold of Batoche. However, upon news of the murder of white settlers at Frog Lake, Otter was placed in charge of a column that was to "relieve" the town of Battleford and the surrounding area from the threat of Indian attack.
Liberally interpreting Middleton's commands, Otter decided to seek out and engage the Cree and Stoney Indians who had been threatening Battleford under Chief Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker). Otter met the Indian forces at Cut Knife Hill on 2 May and was routed. Only the intervention of Pitikwahamapiwiyin prevented the Indian forces from inflicting greater damage on Otter's retreating column. With the fall of Batoche, Otter assisted in the army's unsuccessful attempt to capture the elusive Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear).
Otter's military reputation was not harmed by his loss at Cut Knife Hill. He would serve in the South African War and become the first Canadian-born Chief of the General Staff. During World War I he was placed in charge of Canadian internment camps. He was knighted in 1913 and made a general in 1923.
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